RPW Column By: BRAD KEITSOCK / RPW – OLEY, PA – The nickname says it all…‘The Diamond Cutter’.
Oley Pa’s Duane Howard has earned that nickname because of his driving style and the fact he is one of the greatest racers ever to compete at the famed Big Diamond Speedway clay oval.
The resume for Howard reads #84 career modified wins to go along with his #8 championships at the track in Minersville Pa.
You can say it doesn’t get much better than that.
When the gates swing open Friday night April 10th for Big Diamond Speedway’s opening night, Howard will once again be behind the wheel of Graterford Pa’s iconic car owner Norm Hansell’s #357 spec 358 small block modified.
And on that night so will the quest for win #85 and a 9th Big Diamond Speedway championship begin.
The 2019 campaign at the Big Diamond Speedway was a solid one for Howard and the Hansell racing team as Howard did pick up a victory during the course of the season and finished a strong runner up in the season long points standings.
Howard mentioned, “Last year was a decent year for us at Big Diamond, we were consistent. Seemed many nights we just ran out of laps by the time we got to the front. You wish the races were 30 or 35 laps those nights instead of 25. For this year though, we need to get that win total up a bit more for sure.”
Howard was also complimentary of the new racing surface that was put down on the speedway before last season started.
“With the new clay they put down on the track, the racing surface has definitely improved.” mentioned Howard.
“Jake (Smulley) the track promoter, has been doing a good job at Big Diamond. He puts up good purse money throughout the season for different races. And he shows he’ll address issues at the facility that need to be addressed, can’t ask for much more than that.” explained Howard.
One big change for the 358 modified teams competing at the Big Diamond Speedway this year is the switch over to running only gasoline this year, where in years past a racer could choose between using alcohol or gasoline in their engines.
Howard explained, “I like the switch over to just gas, It’s going to be interesting to see how the racing will be, cars are going to be pretty equal. I think finding the right setup with the car is really going to be key, especially trying to come from the back now. Big Diamond is a momentum track, I’m sure it will stay that way.”
“Also with the switch to all gas this year there will be no more fuel stops for any of the big races at Big Diamond, I think thats a good thing. I really feel the fuel stop during the Coal Cracker last year changed the outcome of the race. Now it won’t be an issue anymore.” commented Howard.
Howard and the entire Hansell #357 team are excited and ready to get going with their Bicknell race car and Wide Open Technologies power plant under the hood.
“Norm (Hansell) gives us everything we need to get the job done. We are well prepared and excited about the upcoming season at Big Diamond.”
So when the cars and stars take to the track for the 2020 racing season, you can be assured ‘The Diamond Cutter’ Duane Howard will continue to write the next chapter in his historic career at the Big Diamond Speedway.